Monday, January 15, 2007

117 AD "I don't even know who you are!" & news

A few weeks ago, my dad got out of bed to use the bathroom. It's 2-3 steps from the bedroom to the bathroom door. He peed on the wall in the hallway and went back to bed. Who knows what he was thinking?
This past Friday, my husband and I were both over there because something's wrong with my mom's computer and we were trying to fix it. All of us-dog, cat, mom, dad, me, hubby-were all downstairs. My husband was working on the computer, I was sitting next to him, my mom was sitting on the stairs and the dog was harassing the cat in the other room. My father picked up a folder labeled "driver's licenses" and started showing it. My mom caught a glimpse of what was inside-40 year old driver's licenses, including her original learner's permit. She was flabbergasted and asked my father where he got them. "That's my old license!"
He pulled the folder away. "I've had these since 1961!" (They didn't even KNOW each other in 1961.) She tried to explain that she didn't want it back, she just wanted to know where he got it. He clutched the folder like it was full of gold and yelled "I don't even know who you are!" right in my mother's face. She just sat there for a moment and then she said, "I know," and went upstairs. It was so awful, words can't describe it.
Then he came over to me and started saying how "they" always try to take all his stuff (meaning my mom) and said, "It's okay if YOU look," offering me the folder. I looked--I never saw a driver's license that old, basically just a typed piece of paper like an old-fashioned library card. My husband was just sitting there with his mouth hanging open like he couldn't believe what my dad had said. I said to my father, "You do know who she is. That's your wife. That's Ann."
"I know," he admitted, and took the folder back.

in the news:
Scientists identify Alzheimer's gene
A huge international study has identified a gene that apparently can raise the risk of developing the most common form of Alzheimer's disease, a discovery that may help scientists develop new treatments.
Scientists analyzed DNA from more than 6,000 people from a variety of ethnic groups and found evidence implicating certain versions of the gene, called SORL1.
It's too soon to tell how much those gene versions raise the risk of getting Alzheimer's, or what percentage of cases they account for, the researchers said.
They said the effect on risk appears to be modest.....
The study... focused on Alzheimer's that appears after age 65, the most common type.
Only one gene, called APOE, has been firmly linked to raising susceptibility to the common form. A Harvard-based group lists about 20 other genes it considers promising candidates, based on research.
...The new paper implicates SORL1 in Alzheimer's in two ways.
First, it shows that inheriting certain variants was associated with developing the disease in seven out of nine samples of people examined. The association appeared in African-American, Caribbean Hispanic, northern European and Israeli Arab groups.
In laboratory studies, researchers also found that when they suppressed the activity of SORL1, cells made greater amounts of amyloid beta, a substance thought to play a key role in causing Alzheimer's.
Researchers believe the disease-promoting variants of SORL1 act by suppressing the gene's activity.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

116 in the news

Two news items. Nothing new for my dad; haven't seen him for a few days.
Higher Folate Levels May Lower Alzheimer's Risk
I find it interesting that this article came out this week, since it's National Folic Acid Awareness Week. (Do you think I can make it up? Here's a link to an article I just posted yesterday at work about it.)
People with higher levels of the nutrient folate from both diet and supplements may have a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
What about people who already have it? Does it help then?
Those with a higher intake of folate from both diet and supplements had a lower risk of Alzheimer's than other people in the study. However, neither dietary intake of folate nor supplements alone had an effect; only the two in combination appeared to produce a benefit.
The researchers found that higher folate intake was modestly associated with lower levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke and may also boost the risk for Alzheimer's disease.
That's interesting, because of course stroke is another cause of dementia.
(F)olate -- also known as folic acid -- works with vitamin B-12 and vitamin C to help the body digest and utilize proteins and to synthesize new proteins when they are needed. It's necessary for the production of red blood cells and the synthesis of DNA. Folic acid also helps with tissue growth and cell function. In addition, it helps to increase appetite when needed and stimulates the formation of digestive acids. Food sources of folate include beans and legumes; citrus fruits and juices; wheat bran and other whole grains; dark green leafy vegetables; poultry; pork; shellfish and liver.
So drink your OJ! Eat your spinach (as long as it's not bagged e-coli type spinach)!

Alzheimer gene kicks in only in old age
A gene that predisposes its carriers to Alzheimer's disease appears to kick in only in old age and has nothing to do with mental declines that are sometimes seen early in life, Australian researchers have found.....The gene, APOE4, does not appear active at all until very late in life.
How do I find out if I've got it? And what about the books and articles I've read which say that the degeneration of Alzheimer's starts as early as your 30's but you compensate for many years? I'm 38 and every time I forget something I think, damn it's starting already? Am I wrong to worry already?
Performance on all tests declined across age groups, a sign of normal cognitive aging. However, APOE4 did not affect performance at any age....The memory changes that occur from 20 to 60 do not seem to be connected to that (APOE4) at all. ...
Clear signs of Alzheimer's usually begin to show when a victim is in their 80s. While many researchers agree that APOE4 seems to be the predominant risk factor for Alzheimer's, it is not entirely clear how it causes the debilitating disease.
It may have a role in repair of nerve cells. When there is nerve damage, people with APOE4 version seem less able to repair and less resistant to a whole lot of diseases or damage to the brain.
Well, that really wasn't that illuminating, was it? And no where in the article did it say when the gene "kicks in" (like the headline implied). Very misleading.

Monday, January 08, 2007

115 "come on" and bit of med news

So much to say, so little time to write.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going grocery shopping with my parents. We were coming back from somewhere and my mom needed to buy a few things to cook for the holiday.
Going shopping with my dad is like walking the dog. Every ten seconds, you have to say "come on, come on" and tug. I have joked that the dog must think his name is "come on" when he's being walked; well my dad must think that's his name while he's in Stop and Shop. He had to go to the bathroom (dad, not dog) and I had to wait outside for him, otherwise he couldn't find us. What happens when he starts to need help? Most places don't have family bathrooms.
I believe I already mentioned my grandmother getting taken to the emergency room for her "heart attack" which turned out to be a back spasm. The doctor noted a shadow on her lungs in the x-ray. My mom was worried about lung cancer (my grandpa smoked cigars) so she was going to bring my grandmother back in to get her lungs checked for that. But then my grandmother demanded to be taken to the hospital again and it turns out she has pneumonia. In fact, although it was the medi-quick place and not the emergency room, it was the same doctor! So she got antibiotics. My mother kept the appointment with the regular doctor and he switched my grandmother to a more powerful antibiotic. Then she had an allergic reaction and yup, you guessed it, had to be rushed to the emergency room. I stayed with my father for one of these (it was a Saturday--NYE/Eve). I tried to make him something nice for lunch. He wanted bread. I tried to put peanut butter on it. He wanted toast with butter. Then he almost set his eyebrows on fire leaning over the (pop up) toaster trying to see if the bread was ready. Pretty much he ignores me when I'm there, whether my mom's there or not. But when I'm leaving, he runs out and demands "when are you coming again?"
My grandmother's new thing is that she doesn't want my dad there when she goes to the doctor or the emergency room. This is a hardship to my mom who has to find someone (ie, me or her best friend) to stay with my dad. It's a lot easier for her to just bring him along. I don't know why my grandmother is acting like that. My mother said that my grandmother is going to have to start to call ME to take her to the doctor if she can't bring my dad, and my grandmother responded that "she doesn't care" (meaning me). I can't win.
So this is my life right now.

Medical news: they've found a source of stem-cells that doesn't require embryos. Can this mean that the President will actually start to allow research on new "lines" again?
Stem cell researchers reacted with enthusiasm and reservations to a report that scientists have found stem cells in amniotic fluid, a discovery that would allow them to sidestep the controversy over destroying embryos for research....(T)he stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells....the scientists still don't know exactly how many different cell types can be made from the stem cells found in amniotic fluid. The scientists said preliminary tests in patients are years away....The cells from amniotic fluid can clearly generate a broad range of important cell types, but they may not do as many tricks as embryonic stem cells....
The hallmark of human embryonic stem cells, which are created in the first days after conception, is the ability to turn into any of the more than 220 cell types that make up the human body. Researchers are hopeful they can train these primordial cells to repair damaged organs in need of healthy cells.
However, many people, including President Bush, oppose the destruction of embryos for any reason. The Bush administration has restricted federal funding for the embryo work since 2001, leading many scientists to search for alternative stem cell sources.
This, like so many other things, won't help my dad, but it will help someone else's loved one.